Criminal cases registered in the past eight years might come in the way of owners seeking licences to reopen dance bars.
The state government is yet to communitcate whether it will appeal the Supreme Court order or allow dance bars to operate with stringent regulations. Home Minister R R Patil is expected to convey the government decision in the Assembly tomorrow. However,if licences of dance bars are to be renewed,serious criminal offences registered against owners under PITA (Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act) and for assault will definitely be a factor, Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh said Sunday.
Violations of minor rules and deadlines can be overlooked but serious offences will have a bearing on whether licences will be granted.
Anil Gaikwad,legal advisor to the dance bar association,said,Mumbai Police will have to follow the Supreme Court order. If cases are pending against bar owners in courts,their licences should be renewed till the verdict is out. In the past,police have renewed licences of dance bar owners found guilty after they had served punishment.
President of Mumbai Bar Owners Association Manjeet Singh Sethi said,Around 150 PITA cases were registered against bar owners in Mumbai last year,most of which were false. Very few bar owners have been spared PITA cases or have not been booked for obscene acts and songs under IPC section 294. Let police tell Supreme Court what they intend to do,we know legal remedies. Any of the 24 petitioners in the case can file an application before Supreme Court for direction to the state government to implement its order.
To open or not is the question
While owners of some top dance bars in Mumbai have started other ventures since the ban in 2005,others said they wished to restore their orchestra bars and restaurants but were apprehensive of police harassment and new regulations.
Night Lovers in Sakinaka,once a top dance bar,is officially a dhaba now. Its owner Vinod Singh Lalji said he would not seek licences to reopen.
In July 2011,Lalji was arrested for keeping the bar open beyond stipulated hours and assaulting a police team that raided it on suspicion of running a prostitution racket. Police later also said there was an Interpol notice against Lalji in a cheque-bounce case in Dubai.
The bar owner,however,claimed all cases were false and all but one had been withdrawn.
I cannot reopen Night Lovers as a dance bar because police have filed several false cases against me. Only one case of assault remains,in which I have been granted bail. I have converted Night Lovers to a dhaba and am happy with my other businesses. I have hotels and restaurants in America and Canada,and a three-star hotel in Bangalore. I also have another establishment in Mulund.
To reopen a dance bar,an owner will need 18 basic licences in addition to 22 other. New regulations proposed by a state-appointed committee dictate there should be a 10 ft by 12 ft dance space,with a 3 ft high railing around it. There should also be a minimum no-mans land of 5 ft separating guests and the dance floor. Who has so much space? Ninety per cent of bars will not be able to comply. There are 24 regulations, such as mandatory fire escapes,minimum bathroom and hall size,height of ceiling and parking space. These are virtually impossible to comply with, said Lalji.
Parvez Raees,owner of Topaz at Grant Road,where Abdul Karim Telgi showered an obscene amount on a single bar dancer one night,is likely to face similar hurdles if he decides to reopen. It is currently a restaurant.
In May 2006,the anti-narcotics cell received a tip-off that charas was likely to change hands at Topaz. The bar was raided,manager Viraf Ghadiyali arrested and 14 grams of charas and Rs 1.5 lakh seized. Ghadiyali allegedly told police the charas was for personal consumption of Raees,who fled the scene and was absconding till he got an anticipatory bail later that year.
Bharat Singh Thakur,owner of another famous dance bar Indiana in Tardeo,intends to restart.
Indiana,now an orchestra bar,was most recently raided in March this year. The social service branch arrested 52 bar girls,24 customers and 24 employees and registered a case under PITA.
Most people who had dance bar licences would want to restart. I intend to do so myself. We are likely to get true copy of the Supreme Court order tomorrow and will approach police for licences. We have already written to the Chief Minister,Deputy Chief Minister and R R Patil seeking a meeting to discuss issues, said Thakur.
Some of the new norms,such as no note showering,are fine. Tips can be given only through the manager now. However,a 3-ft-high fence around the girls is absurd. They are not animals to be caged. I will have to make the necessary modifications at Indiana, he said.
Deepa Bar in Vile Parle was a favourite meeting spot for politicians,bureaucrats, businessmen,film industry personalities and cricket bookies and had the crorepati bar dancer Tarannum Khan. Its owner Sudhakar Shetty is now chairman of a real estate company. He also launched the channel Jai Maharashtra in April this year.
The launch party was attended by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan,union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar,besides several Bollywood stars.